The Legendary Lord
By Valerie Bowman
Publisher: St. Martin's
Release Date: November 1, 2016
When Christian Forester, Viscount Berkeley, flees the stuffy ballrooms of London for his Scottish hunting lodge, the last thing he expects to find ensconced before his fire is an incredibly beautiful woman. But the plight of lovely Sarah Highgate, who has run away from an unwanted betrothal, inspires an eminently practical exchange. He'll safeguard her reputation with the ton while she advises him how to best attract a proper bride...
As the undisputed belle of the season, Sarah has enchanted plenty of suitors. Still, she isn't interested in marriage, especially not to the pompous bore her father has chosen for her. But her hasty escape seems reckless now that she's estranged from her family and has no one to count on besides Christian. Turning the luckless lord into a catch has another unplanned consequence for Sarah: Has he run away with her heart?
As with the earlier books in her Playful Brides series, Valerie Bowman once again has created an enjoyable, feel-good story with engaging characters, witty banter, heartfelt emotion, playful humor and a sigh-worthy happy ending.
Sarah and Christian first meet when he discovers her in his Scotland hunting cottage. She's run from an unwanted betrothal engineered by her father and ends up snowbound with Christian. He quickly realizes that Sarah is unlike any other society miss he's met (she cooks, knits, is kind, and not the least bit spoiled or entitled). Also, as the belle of the current season, she's the perfect person to help transform him into a man who will be able to attract a bride. He hasn't had much luck on his own. He always seems to end up the best friend, never the lover.
By the time the weather improves enough for them to leave the cottage, a few things have happened. Sarah has taught Christian how to make himself more attractive to society ladies, they have become friends, and Sarah is having second thoughts about disobeying her parents. With the assistance of Christian's influential friends, the two go their separate ways and Sarah is returned to London without damage to her reputation yet neither of them can't quite forget the other. When Christian finally returns to London, Sarah is still betrothed to a man she can't bear to be near (the thought of him touching her keeps her on the verge of a panic attack) yet she doesn't have the courage to defy society and her parents a second time. The more Christian and Sarah are together, the more their feelings deepen but he can't bring himself to be vulnerable enough to tell her how he really feels about her and she can't see any way out of marrying the man chosen by her parents. Will they ever find a way to be together?
I love the slow build of this story and how Sarah and Christian become friends first before acknowledging the growing romantic feelings they have for one another. The secondary cast is a delight, especially the heroines from previous Playful Brides books who are determined to see their dear friend, Christian finally find his happy ending. There's also Sarah's brother who I do hope we'll be seeing more of in a future book.
The Legendary Lord is the sixth book in Bowman's Playful Brides series but can easily be read as a standalone. However, by the time you finish, you'll probably be so captivated by the heroes and heroines from previous books who have prominent roles in Christian and Sarah's story that you'll want to download their books immediately.
Are you reading Valerie Bowman's Playful Brides series?
Do you have a favorite Playful Brides book?
Do you enjoy snowbound romances as much as I do?
Two randomly chosen people leaving comments will each receive a print copy of The Legendary Lord.
(US only) Deadline to enter giveaway is 11:00 pm, November 8, 2016.
Excerpt from The Legendary Lord
Christian contemplated the young lady sitting across from him. He’d never considered such aspects of an arranged marriage before. Most of the ladies he knew, like his friends the Duchess of Claringdon, the Countess of Swifdon, and Mrs. Upton, had all chosen their husbands, fallen in love with them, actually. It had to be difficult to be a female forced to marry in accordance with her family’s wishes. It was done all the time, of course, this wasn’t an extraordinary circumstance, but Lady Sarah obviously had chosen to flee rather than obey. At great potential risk to her reputation. He could well imagine how her imperious father would react. The Earl of Highfield was a good man but could be pompous when the occasion arose.
“The worst part is,” she continued, “that everyone keeps informing me how fortunate I am. How lucky to have drawn the eye of the marquess, what a boon it is, et cetera.”
“You don’t feel fortunate?” Christian took another bite of stew.
“I’ve tried to feel fortunate. I have. I truly have. There must be something awfully wrong with me to not feel fortunate. But then, one night, I got a funny feeling in my chest. I can’t explain it other than to say that I couldn’t breathe. The room seemed to be closing about me. I felt frightened. I only knew I had to leave.”
“Leave?” Christian narrowed his eyes on her.
“Flee. Get out. Be anywhere but there.”
He watched her carefully. “And you decided to come here?”
“It was the only place I could think of.”
“Did you leave just before the wedding, then?”
“No.” She groaned again. “That’s what is even more mad. The wedding isn’t to be until spring. But I just had to go. Oh, I know I sound positively insane. It’s quite difficult to explain.” She shook her head sadly and pushed her stew around in her bowl with her spoon.
Christian had never heard of a lady who had the same sort of reaction to worry that he had. Tight chest? Fear? Walls closing in? He’d experienced the same sensations himself on more than one occasion. It was some sort of attack of the nerves that he dreaded. It didn’t sound positively mad to him in the least. “You plan to remain here till spring?”
Sarah’s hand paused on the spoon. “No. Of course not. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve always done everything I’ve been told. Never broken one rule. I cannot image Mother’s shock. I feel absolutely awful. I don’t know what I was thinking.”
Christian rubbed his chin. “What did you think would happen if you ran away?”
She sighed. “I’m not a complete fool. I did have a plan. I took clothes and all the pin money I’d been saving for years. I decided to dress as a maid so I wouldn’t need help with my clothing.”
“Very astute of you.” He inclined his head. “But you brought a chaperone with you?”
“I never intended for Mrs. Goatsocks to come.”
Christian let that part go for the moment. “Why did you save your pin money?”
“No particular reason. I simply abhor shopping. The only things I ever bought were gifts for Mother and Father and Hart and Mrs. Goatsocks and my maid.”
“My elder brother.”
“Ah, yes, Highfield’s heir. What was your plan once you got to your father’s hunting lodge?”
She took such a long draught of wine that she drained the glass. She stood to retrieve the bottle from the table near the hearth. “I hoped to create a scandal. Hopefully one that would be bad enough that Lord Branford would ask Father to destroy the marriage contract.”
Christian’s lips twitched with humor. “And if that didn’t work?”
“That was my entire plan. How could it not work? Who would want a wife who’d been missing and unchaperoned?”
Christian eyed her up and down. Clearly the young woman had little idea how appealing she was. He doubted Branford would let some idle gossip stop the wedding. “And now I feel like an idiot,”
Sarah continued, “and dear Mrs. Goatsocks has been injured and poor Mr. Fergus had to go out in the snow just before a storm and it’s all my fault.”
His bowl clean, Christian leaned back in his chair and folded his hands over his middle. “Well, the stew you cooked is a sight better than anything Fergus has ever made, so I’m glad you’re here for the moment, at least.”
She tried to return his smile but couldn’t. “I’m sorry if I can’t quite see the humor in it. I’ve ruined my life.”
“You must have felt quite strongly to have taken such a risk.”
“I did. But now, now I feel as if I’ll never be able to fix it. Oh, why? Why did I run away so hastily?”
Christian rested his forearm atop his head. “It sounded to me as if you didn’t have a choice.”
“Father will never forgive me.”
“Do you forgive him? For betrothing you to Lord Branford?”
She blinked at Christian quizzically, as if she didn’t understand the question. “I’ve been expected to make a desirable match since I was young. If you’ve been to balls in London, you must know how these things go. And to marry a marquess? Well, it’s Father’s dream for me. ”
Christian nodded. “I do know how these things go, but I also know that it isn’t unheard of for parents to take their children’s feelings into consideration when making such decisions.”
The look of confusion on her face deepened. “I never told them I didn’t want to marry Lord Branford.”
Christian’s arm fell away from his head and he sat up straight. “My dear girl, why ever not?”
“I was trying to be brave. Do the right thing. You know? Keep a stiff upper lip and all that.”
“And if you go back, will you tell them then?”
“It doesn’t matter now.” She grabbed the wine bottle and returned to her seat. She tipped the bottle into her glass, refilling it. “I’ve been awful and selfish, I know. It’s all I can think about. I must return home to face the scandal and the censure. Perhaps someday I will find a man willing to look past my tainted reputation.”
Christian settled back against his chair again and righted his shoulders. “What if Branford still wants you?”
Her eyes widened with surprise. “Why would he want a wife steeped in scandal?”
Because you’re exceedingly beautiful. “Trust me, it’s more than pos si ble.”
She sighed, holding her glass just beneath her red lips. “I hadn’t even considered that. I’ve been such a fool. I regret it. I do. I regret it horribly. I’ve been a hideously disobedient daughter.”
Christian narrowed his eyes on her. “You truly believe that?”
“Yes. I feel absolutely sick. Now that I’ve had a chance to calm down and think about everything, I’m certain. I’d do anything to get back to London with no one being any the wiser, but the longer I stay here, the less chance I have of that happening. I fear it’s too late for my reputation. And now I’m stuck here with . . .”
Christian plucked up his own wineglass and grinned at her again. “Me.”
She nodded miserably.
He lifted the glass and eyed her through the dark liquid. “Well, Lady Sarah Highgate, what if I told you that I can help?”
Copyright © 2016 by Valerie Bowman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Paperbacks.